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Mel Gravely

Bus Drivers Can Play an Important Role in Family Engagement

As we know, parent/family engagement is one of the most important and longest-lasting benefits of Head Start. To do it right, it requires an all-hands-on-deck mentality. Every interaction with a parent or caregiver, no matter how small or fleeting it may seem, should be considered when putting together the best plan for family engagement. After all, it’s the little, daily interactions with parents that can help them feel welcome and accepted into the program. Before they can get engaged, they have to feel comfortable.

As part of that plan, we shouldn’t forget the important role that your transportation employees play in the day-to-day interactions with families. Head Start bus drivers have interactions with families in both the home and school environments. Through the regular course of doing their job, they not only have direct observations of children, but also have regular opportunities to communicate with parents.

If you haven’t already, include transportation employees in your parent engagement planning with some of these strategies:

Train bus drivers on the Head Start mission
School bus drivers have to be certified through the state. While their state certification may train them how to safely operate a school bus, that is not the only training that they should receive. During the regular onboarding process, it is important to teach bus drivers the history of Head Start. People want to know that the work they’re doing matters, so be sure to educate all new employees on the Head Start program in general and its mission in the community.

Train drivers on how to encourage parents to volunteers
While the time that drivers have with parents may be short, often just long enough to exchange pleasantries, talk to your drivers about the best ways to use that time to remind parents about upcoming events/volunteer opportunities.

Train bus drivers to recognize potential problems and develop a process that they can bring those up to management
Head Start bus drivers are in the unique position to see children near both the school and home environments. They may be one of the first ones to notice changes in child or family behavior. Maybe someone unfamiliar has begun waiting with the child at the bus stop. Or maybe the child has been acting out on the bus. It’s time-relevant details like this that are important for a child’s overall family engagement plan.

Hold periodic meetings with bus drivers
As with all staff, be sure to hold regular meetings with your transportation employees to address any concerns that they might have. As I’m sure you’ve experienced before, a lot can come out of a face-to-face meeting in which you can bounce ideas off of one another and get feedback in real time. While there is a time and place for an ALL STAFF email, it’s still important to get together in-person.

Head Start works best when all staff works together. If you have had any breakthroughs come as a result of information from transportation staff, we’d love to have your feedback! Leave your comments below.

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